Earlier this year, Game Connection organiser Connection Events and GDC host CMP announced Lyon GDC, anew conference taking place in France this December. Combining Connection Eventsâ?? B2B meeting place with GDCâ??s conference content, itâ??s a first for European studios. Michael French spoke to organiser Pierre Carde to find out moreâ?¦

Lyonâ??s den

Firstly, can you tell us how the event and the partnership between CE and CMP came about?
The idea for this event was driven by the industry itself, especially Southern European game industry professionals as no events up to this point have addressed the issues of this region’s game developers in particular. We’ve actually been toying with the idea for two years and felt that this year would work best.

Meanwhile, we have been collaborating with CMP since the Game Connection joined the Game Developers Conference in California in 2004. When the idea came to organize an event made for developers by developers in France, it made sense to join forces with CMP to present the Lyon Game Developers Conference and benefit from the valuable expertise of the organizer’s of the industry’s largest developer event.

With six years of Game Connection behind us, Connection Events has developed true expertise in bringing events to the videogame industry. Through the years, we have built an extensive world-wide network, and we listen carefully to the expectations of the European industry. This region is blessed with incredibly talented game developers who badly needed an event to share their expertise with peers. Connection Events – in partnership with the GDC – was more than happy to make that possible

Who is the event aimed at and how many people do you expect to attend?

The event is targeted at videogame professionals looking to share expertise, ideas, and tools with top developers from Europe and around the world. We are expecting approximately 400 participants from all disciplines: programming, visual arts, game design, audio, production, as well as business and management. In other words, we are targeting the true “game creators” including artists, coders, producers, game and level designers who are willing to learn from other experts’ experience. Know that sessions will be presented in English translated in French.

What’s the relationship between the GDC and Game Connection in terms of how people attend and buy passes, etc.?
The two events are taking place the same week and at the same location, but don’t share the same objectives and don’t really target the same audience. Game Connection is very business focused and attracts mainly managers and biz dev people. GDC is technically focused and aims at providing expertise and shared experiences with both professionals and technicians. We expect less than 20 per cent crossover between the two events.

We are excited to offer an all inclusive pass that presents significant savings to industry professionals looking to enhance their skills and grow their business all in the same week!

‘Next-Generation Games’ and ‘Cross-Platform Development’ are the main themes for the conference – why did you choose those?

The underlying question here is ‘Can we speak about ‘next-gen’ at this stage?’ Our answer is ‘yes’ because the ‘next-gen’ market is growing rapidly, but lots of developers are not ready to commit at this stage to develop 360, not to mention PS3 games. PS2 is still alive, even if it is frowned upon by some publishers who do seem to remember that PSone sold strongly two to three years after the launch of the PS2, and the Wii is considered a ‘Super Gamecube’.

We chose these themes because we understood from developer feedback that they are concerned with this new challenge of developing for ‘next-gen’ consoles as they are so different from one another. At the same time, developers are being asked to be specialists in a genre on multiple platforms. As such, these two themes seemed very appropriate, especially in Europe where the game community is much more fragmented.

Do you have any confirmed speakers/keynote speakers yet?
Choosing highly qualified speakers and high-interest session topics is our top priority right now. We work very closely with the advisory board on that matter and have already targeted the most critical issues for developers. We also know that developers are very interested in knowing more from the major games released in 2007 and how they were made. This cutting edge industry insight will be presented at the GDC Lyon.

Game Connection has been running since 2001 – how has it evolved in that time?

The first convention took place in Lyon in December 2001 and attracted 27 French developers and 20 international publishers. Six years later, the Game Connection is now active in the three main video game markets with Game Connection America, at GDC, launched in 2004 and Game Connection Tokyo, at the Tokyo Game Show, launched in 2006. Last year Game Connection brought together more than 195 development studios, 65 service providers, and 205 publishers and service buyers, representing a total of about 80 countries.

At the very beginning, the event was focusing only on developers willing to pitch their projects to publishers. It is now a unique market place for games (from concept to finished games) and services (outsourcing, QA, Localisation, middleware). Funny enough, the event is now the oldest event and probably the largest industry event in Europe focused solely on business development.

The disappearance of E3 has proven us right in the concept of one-on-one meetings which are critical to driving the industry forward.

You must have a fairly unique view on how the games market has changed in that time as well – what is the biggest issue for developers right now?

Five years ago, the landscape in Europe was challenging with many predicting that independent game developers would go bankrupt or be absorbed by publishers at any time This has not happened. The video game market has grown an average of eight per cent since then and regional developers are particularly busy. Why is that so? First of all, because the market is so very dynamic! Games used to be developed on a worldwide approach 10 years ago. Now games can be profitable on a regional, if not national, level. And the market is much deeper than people think (and very few games sell more than 1 million units worldwide).

The key developer issues I see today include:

Innovation. With Wii and DS representing the largest market share, developers (and publishers) must be ready to innovate to meet the expectations of a widening market. Gameplay innovation is particularly key.

Marketing: Developers cannot remain in publisher’s shadow forever. They need to operate more independently and be able to market their company and games more adeptly.

Distribution: The evolution of the industry with the growth of local and regional developers and publishers, and digital distribution is going to have a strong impact on the development community.

Information: Most developers (especially in Europe) are blind when it comes to market growth and market share data. The European Games Developer Federation is the right body to address this critical issue.

Recruiting: In this period of growth, finding the right staff is essential.

And how is the event going to be tailored to address all those things?
At the Game Connection, we will address properly the first three issues by promoting new ideas and innovation globally with all our exhibitors, but will also help smaller companies to come to the event for free. Our new Level Up program will offer a free Game Connection to five innovative companies providing games or services.

With the press being invited to the event this year and more than 250 buyers expected at the Lyon Event, we will provide the industry with the right tools to market itself and grow and develop!

Regarding GDC, the event will address the issue of innovation of course with many sessions on next-generation platform and a lot of space left to design sessions on all platforms. Many of the most innovative games launched in 2007 will be at Lyon GDC this year.

Visit the Lyon GDC website for updates on the event.

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